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First Drive

First Drive: Mercedes B220d

The story:
This is the third generation of B-Class, the more practical mini-MPV-shaped sibling to the A-Class hatch.
Key rival:BMW 2-Series Active Tourer
Mercedes-Benz B220d AMG-Line
On sale:Now

Mercedes has managed to get the jump on the rest of the car industry, with its new B-Class being the first car to appear on UK roads that complies with RDE2 emissions standards. That means a significant saving on company car tax and firm’s national insurance payments because it side-steps the four-band Benefit-In-Kind penalty that diesels are punished with.

So on our B220d AMG Line test car for example, a 40% taxpayer would save more than £40 a month in BiK, and gives the B-Class a hefty advantage over its main competition, the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer.

The new B-Class is a five-seat small MPV designed to be a more practical version of the A-Class hatchback with which it is closely linked, and which will also get the same RDE2 148hp 200d and 188hp 220d engines that are part of the B-Class range. The B-Class also gets a 116hp B180d entry diesel engine that is not RDE2-compliant, so despite having slightly lower emissions, sits three BIK bands above the new units.

The new Mercedes has a launch line-up that also includes three petrol engines – the 134hp B180, 161hp B200 and 224hp B250 as well as the diesel trio, with the two higher diesels linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and the other engines a seven-speed auto.

Sport and AMG Line specifications are available on some models, though the two highest-powered petrols and the top diesel come only with AMG Line.

The new car is 26mm longer than its predecessor, though legroom is still not as plentiful as headroom despite the new car’s sleeker shape; Mercedes claims the B-Class now “puts the emphasis on sport with the sport tourer”. It’s certainly a more elegant design, and more so than the BMW, especially with the diamond radiator grille of the AMG Line trim level.First Drive-June 2019-Mercedes B220d-Image 7

To drive, the B220d diesel engine offers more performance than is strictly necessary in this class of practical car, accelerating from rest in brisk fashion. It’s also refined enough and combines nicely with the decent, softer ride quality to make for a comfortable long-distance companion, especially when you’re ensconced in the AMG Line’s sports seats.

The cabin can be specced with two 10.25-inch screens to create a widescreen cockpit display; these are a rather expensive, if impressive, option, and all cars get the Hey Mercedes voice-activation system. The infotainment can also be controlled via touchpads on the steering wheel as well as the touchscreen, but the overall system can be a little frustrating to use compared with the best that rivals can offer.

Nevertheless, the RDE2-related cost savings are attractive, and the B-Class is better looking, slightly larger inside and offers a much better drive and interior quality than the previous car could do.

Paul Barker

The verdict

RDE2 engines currently give the advantage to the Mercedes, which is a much sharper overall proposition than its predecessor.